Holidaymakers are being refused refunds even if their trips are cancelled due to coronavirus – The Sun

TOUR operators are refusing to pay refunds to travellers who have their holidays cancelled due to coronavirus.

An investigation conducted by Which? magazine found customers were either being offered credit notes or the option to rebook at a future date.

Some were only given a credit note for half of their bookings.

Stacey Brook, who booked a holiday with STA Travel to Sri Lanka, was told that "no refunds were permitted".

Despite paying £1,485 in January, by mid-March her trip was cancelled – yet she was only given the choice of a credit note or to book at a later date.

Similarly, LoveHolidays customer Jessamy Worms was only offered a credit note of £399.28, which was half of her £814 payment after booking a holiday to Morocco, and didn't include what she paid for her flights.

Both companies claimed they were "following ABTA's advice".

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, admitted that the travel industry is under "huge strain" – but that this wasn't an excuse to avoid refunds.

What are their current cancellation policies?

LoveHolidays confirm in their terms and conditions: " If we or any of the Service Providers are prevented from performing the Travel Service because of Unavoidable and Extraordinary Circumstances, we or the Service Providers may terminate your booking and provide you a full refund."

However, they have caveated this with a coronavirus related update: "In line with ABTA guidance, for customers who have had ATOL protected holidays cancelled due to the global Coronavirus outbreak, we are issuing an ATOL protected refund credit note."

They add that if the credit note is not used by its expiry date of a year, they will offer a case refund instead.

STA Travel also confirm: "If you have booked a Package and we make a significant change to your booking, we will inform you as soon as reasonably possible if there is time before your departure.

"You will have the choice of either accepting the change of arrangements, accepting an offer of alternative travel arrangements of comparable standard from us (we will refund any price difference if the alternative has a lower value), or cancelling your booked arrangements and receiving a full refund."

Their coronavirus-related advice adds: "ABTA is highlighting that customers may be offered a Refund Credit Note instead of an immediate cash refund, which can be used to book another holiday at a later date and, in the meantime, it is protected by ABTA/ATOL."

He explained: "It is not acceptable for operators to disregard the law and refuse to issue refunds for holidays costing thousands of pounds to customers who may desperately need the money themselves due to financial pressures caused by coronavirus."

He explained that holidaymakers should encourage credit notes or rebooking if possible, but are still entitled to a refund.

ABTA explain on their website that by being protected, it means consumers are "also protected if elements of the holiday aren’t provided as required, for example the right to a refund if bad weather means your holiday can’t go ahead".

However, ABTA said their guidance did "not breach" the Package Travel Regulations.

They said:  "One of those options, that their travel provider may, or may not, offer them, is a Refund Credit Note.

"This guidance is to support a pragmatic discussion between customers and Members who are unable to comply with the precise wording of the Regulations in this crisis, in relation to the 14-day cash refund rule."

They are also directing consumers to the website FAQ for additional information regarding credit notes and refunds.

An STA spokesperson told Which? that "ABTA is highlighting that customers may be offered a Refund Credit Note instead of an immediate cash refund, which can be used to book another holiday at a later date and, in the meantime, it is protected by ABTA/ATOL."

A spokesperson for LoveHolidays said credit notes had airfares deduced as they were waiting for "cash from the airlines".

They too insisted they were following ABTA guidelines.

Sun Online Travel contacted the tour operators for additional comment.

ABTA has warned that holiday providers could go bankrupt if forced to offer refunds to travellers, meaning millions of trips could be cancelled.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, explained: "The rules around 14-day refunds were never designed for the mass cancellation of holidays, which we’re now seeing as result of Government measures to contain the pandemic."

Holidaymakers are being urged to accept credit notes, or they risk losing their holidays entirely.

Airlines are also begging the UK government to allow them to keep passengers' money for their cancelled flights and to offer vouchers instead to keep the cash within the travel industry.

Source: Read Full Article